As a new academic year gets underway, UGA’s Equal Opportunity Office is readying to take a more visible role in promoting a fair and respectful environment on campus.
EOO is responsible for ensuring the university complies with laws and policies regarding discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, veteran status, genetic information and disability.
The office, with its staff of five, also administers and enforces UGA’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy, which covers everyone in the university community, including faculty, staff, students and visitors. As such, EOO is tasked with investigating complaints of discrimination and harassment.
However, EOO Director Janyce Dawkins said the office prefers to keep that caseload low and is being proactive in educating the UGA community about maintaining a fair and respectful environment.
“I would much prefer to prevent the complaint as opposed to investigating the complaint,” Dawkins said. “I think the way to do that is to put forward a positive message.”
That message rolls out this fall in the form of EOO’s new motto: “Expect Respect.” The message was developed by EOO staff to provide a succinct way to describe how people at UGA should interact with each other.
To drive home that message, EOO ordered promotional items like keychain flashlights, backpacks and drink coasters emblazoned with slogan “expect respect” to deliver around campus at EOO events.
The office also has compiled a small library of pamphlets with easily digestible information about the NDAH policy, Title IX rules and sexual harassment.
Dawkins and EOO staff also are spending a lot of time focusing on training across campus.
Associate Director Kristopher Stevens teaches a class on the NDAH policy as part of the Office of Institutional Diversity’s diversity certificate program. The office also offers training upon request for departments and student groups.
“We will tailor training to the needs of the department, while still offering the broad message,” Dawkins said.
EOO’s latest effort to promote its message comes as it takes a new and more prominent home on campus.
In May, EOO moved from the basement floor at Peabody Hall to the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building.
“I’m thrilled to be in the Holmes-Hunter Building, which is named after the first African-Americans admitted to the University of Georgia,” Dawkins said. “It’s a great location, visible right near the Arch, but it’s also a symbolic location as well.”